Four downs with WRs and TEs

Published: March 10 2010 | 4:59 pm - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 8:52 pm in
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QUICK LOOK BACK: The 2009 season was when Derrell Johnson-Koulianos took another step toward becoming Iowa's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. For the third consecutive season, the senior-to-be led the Hawkeyes in receiving with 45 catches for 750 yards and two TDs -- career highs with the 750 yards the most for an Iowa wideout since Clinton Solomon had 800 in 2005. Junior Marvin McNutt sort of came out of nowhere and established himself as a big-play threat and money on the goal line. He led the Big Ten with 19.8 yards per catch and his eight TD receptions tied for second in the league. All that in his first full season as a wideout after converting from QB.

When healthy, senior Colin Sandemanproved to be a valuable receiver and ultra-valuable punt returner. He's not going to stretch the field, but he led the Hawkeyes in receiving against Arizona (5 for 47 yards) and saved his best for last, with four catches for 53 yards and a TD in the Orange Bowl. Sandeman finished second in the conference with 9.0 yards on 12 punt returns.

Paul Chaney Jr. played six games before suffering a torn ACL. Iowa coaches respect his speed. He got 12 touches in those six games, which was 10 more than he had in all of '08. Coaches clearly wanted to get him the ball. He dabbled in punt and kick return, I don't see him in those roles next season. The senior tore his ACL on Oct. 10, so he might not be 100 percent right away next season.

Keenan Davis didn't put up great numbers as a true freshman last season, catching just four passes for 55 yards and a TD. The last pass he caught was Oct. 3 against Arkansas State. When the roster shortened, his time on the field went away, but he was just a true freshman. He had the year you'd expect for a true freshman.

Tight end Allen Reisner had a somewhat quiet year behind Tony Moeaki, catching 14 passes for 143 yards and a TD. The senior from Marion should be the free-and-clear No. 1 this season, with junior Brad Herman and freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz in the mix.

FOURTH DOWN -- CONCERNS: At wide receiver, maybe consistency, but that might even be a stretch. This should be a solid group. It's senior-heavy (DJK, Sandeman, Chaney), it has size (McNutt, Davis) and it is crazy with game experience.

Consistency might be a nag. For the most part, Iowa avoided drive-killing drops last season.  Perhaps the Minnesota game, with the four sacks, showed a need for better communication on hot routes. The blitz consistently beat Iowa and then-freshman QB James Vandenberg in that game.

Also, does this unit has top-end speed? Last year's numbers say yes. McNutt made big plays and averaged 19.8 yards a catch, the highest for an Iowa wide receiver with more than 30 catches since Andy Brodell had 18.56 in 2006. DJK wasn't far behind on this stat, averaging 16.7 yards a catch.

So, big-play speed is certainly there. This unit really has no excuses next season. It should be one of the Big Ten's most productive.

The tight end position will split approximately 50 catches, maybe 45. It'll be interesting to see how that goes. Usually,

 the No. 1 TE gets 30 to 40 receptions a season. Reisner, who caught just three passes the last eight games, could see that. Herman has one career catch, so maybe expect 10 or so for him next season. He's a favorite of coaches and has been a great program guy, playing before he was ready as a true frosh. Fiedorowicz is the X factor here. If he performs in fall camp, he could change where the 50 receptions go. He could become a 1B, a very interesting 1B at 6-7, 250 with decent wheels.

One major concern at TE, is there anyone who can block in the same league as Moeaki? Probably not, at least not right now.

THIRD DOWN -- ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Trey Stross graduated. Some of you hold Ohio State against him, but don't. He had a bad game and he faced up to it. I always enjoyed my interviews with him, a smart kid who wore his emotions on his sleeve, said what was on his mind. I wonder how his career would've gone without the faulty hamstrings.

And ditto for Moeaki, an all-timer at tight end and will be getting paid to play when he becomes the eighth TE in the Ferentz era to make it to the NFL.

Fiedorowicz is the addition worth watching.

The 6-7, 250-pounder has a ton of experience with the ball, catching 183 passes for 3,121 yards and 42 TDs, all school records and all among the top 10 in Illinois history. He wasn't asked to do much or any blocking in high school, so that's going to be the measure for him in August. His weightroom numbers (350-pound bench press, 500 squat and 325 power clean) suggest that he has the body for it.

“Yeah, that’s what everyone usually says (about the blocking),” Fiedorowicz said. “I’m sure I can learn it. I’m not really worried about it.

“I want to play right away and make a big impact. Hopefully, maybe 30 catches.”

The only other newcomer to the receiver group is incoming freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley. He's a 6-0, 190-pounder from Bloomfield, Mich. My guess is he redshirts with an eye toward playing time in 2011, when the wide receiver depth chart clears out.

SECOND DOWN -- Battles brewing: I think WR is pretty clear.

DJK is 1A, McNutt is 1B and Sandeman/Davis/Chaney Jr. fight it out for No. 3 touches. What are No. 3 touches? More than you might think. I'd say Stross fit the No. 3 role behind DJK and McNutt last fall. He finished with 31 catches for 414 yards.

Right now, Sandeman is the frontrunner for most of those receptions. He has the best resume and the rates highest on the coaches trust factor, a nebulous determinant but one that you know is there.

You want Davis to be No. 3. I know you do. I go back to this: Why did he disappear last season? The only thing that took out Sandeman was a helmet-to-helmet at Michigan State. Davis went eight games without a pass thrown his direction. I'm going to say that's "coaches trust factor," which I'm sure will be debated as "Ferentz and KOK keeping a great player down," a la DJK the early years. OK, I might be a bit jaded on the topic.

Davis has the ladder in front of him. Sandeman has the lead. It can change during fall camp. The No. 3 touches could also be split.

Freshman Jordan Cotton might kick the door down for regular reps, but I'm guessing he'll be groomed as the replacement to Sandeman at punt return. He was tried there during fall camp last year.

Of the army of walk-on wideouts, I'm interested to see if JoJo Pregont progresses. He's 6-6, that's an intangible worth working.

I believe Reisner has dibs on No. 1 TE touches, the 30 to 40 we discussed above, but I also think Fiedorowicz could take a bite here. Also, Herman might get his first real shot at being a factor in the offense. He hasn't had a decent opportunity, or at least one outside of emergency.

Then, you have junior Zach Furlong, sophomore J.D. Griggs and freshman Dakota Getz  -- three more scholarship tight ends. Also, incoming freshman Austin Vier could make his way to the position by the end of camp, depending how long his look at QB goes.

I still see the top three being Reisner, Fiedorowicz and Herman for 2010.

FIRST DOWN -- "On Iowa" prediction for 2010:This is a no-brainer, but DJK should become Iowa's career leader in receiving yardage and receptions. Johnson-Koulianos now has 127 receptions for 1,871 yards and seven TDs in his career.

DJK needs 31 receptions to pass Kevin Kasper as Iowa’s all-time receptions leader. Kasper had 157 from 1997-2000. He needs 401 yards to pass Tim Dwight’s career yardage record of 2,271, set between 1994-97.

He's coming off his best season. He came through the Orange Bowl injury scare just fine, so these are reachable goals.

I think No. 3 receiver is an interesting battle. Iowa needs Davis to find his bearings and seize this spot. Look at the depth chart in 2011. You'll have [EDIT]McNutt, Davis, Cotton, KMM and some walk-ons. Davis has the maturity to progress. He'll have a role next fall, maybe a bigger one than expected.

I'm guessing 15 to 20 catches for Fiedorowicz. More might get him Big Ten freshman of the year mention. Hmm, I could predict that, but I'm not quite there yet.

Iowa's career leaders in receptions:

1) Kevin Kasper 157

2) Kahlil Hill 152

3) Danan Hughes and Ronnie Harmon 146

4) Tim Dwight 139

5) Ed Hinkel 135  

Iowa's career leaders in receiving yards:

1) Tim Dwight 2,271

2) Danan Hughes 2,216

3) Ronnie Harmon 2,045

4) Kevin Kasper 1,974

5) Dave Moritz 1,912


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